Hi everyone! I'm thinking of presenting at a conference over the summer, but I've never been to one so I have no idea what is expected! I want to talk to my sup about it, but he is so busy right now. Any suggestions? I was thinking of just attending one without presenting in order to get a feel of what it's all about. What do you think?
Cheers olivia! Yeah, I'm thinking it may be disastrous if I sign up to present without even having been to one! I haven't a clue as to: how long your paper should be, what style is used in writing conference papers, how to present, etc. I now wish that I had attended a conference during my MA--then I wouldn't be so terrified! From your experience olivia, is it more terrifying leading up to your presentation, and then when you're doing it you're ok?
I think everyone's conference experience is very individual and how you react to presenting is very different for each person--except that at a recent conference I was at, nearly everyone from new PhD students to experienced senior academics expressed nerves at presenting and relief when their talk was done. So I think having some nerves about it is just part of the way it is.
For myself, the comfort level really varies based on what I am presenting and who I am presenting to. That said, I usually enjoy being up in front of people speaking, yet, can find the conference presenting nerve producing. I think its hard to condense information into a 20 minute slot--that is the challenge for me. It really is not much time to talk.
In the US you get a whole 50-60 minute slot to yourself, so, learning to condense material and still have an effective presentation has been a learning challenge for me. If you have Power point, plan on a back up plan in case it does not work ( because invariably at some point technology will fail you). Some people read their papers, others present from fairly sterile Power point slides, others have more dynamic presentations. Do what is comfortable for you!!!!! I have longed to retreat to the safety of reading a paper, but always opt for a PP when I can. I also like to speak from just a bare outline of notes, as for myself, I am a better speaker "on my feet" and delivering the topic in that style. The other thing is KEEP to time and know how much time you have left, etc. as you go.
Its really disrespectful of the audience and other speakers to run over time. I have got this down to a fine art, where if I have x number of minutes, I go that long, and no less and no more. But you will develop your own feel for how to do that--I mark my notes in 5 minute segments, so I know if I am keeping up with the alloted time.
But to finish a long winded response to your question--it takes me about 30 seconds to get into my topic...at first I feel nervous and that may reflect itself as I start, but I warm up to what I am doing, and "hit my stride"--then I am fine. I think it helps to pay attention to how people that you think are effective speakers deliver their talks...again, a range of styles can be effective. I think that eye contact with the audience, clarity of presentation with beginning, middle, end ( as obvious as that sounds) and taking a few pauses to just make eye contact with the audience, take in the room, gather your thoughts as you go is helpful.
It is terrifying at the start - the only way around it is practice so dive right in! For my first presentation I found myself willing to get run over by a bus in the morning. Seemed logical at the time but as soon as the presentation was over, the stupidity of this thinking was clear! I think that it's only through practice that you become clear about how to contain nerves and what style best suits you etc. We're all nervous starting out so don't let that stop you - just go for it.
Thanks so much for all your advice everyone! I'm so scared of the idea of presenting and have been thinking (as you said Krashty) that I should just jump in. That's the only way isn't it? If I start thinking about it too much, then I'll find all sorts of reasons to not submit an abstract. Can I ask one more thing? Would you write your conference paper in the same way as you would a normal piece you were working on? Or do you write with the audience in mind? I hope this doesn't sound like a ridiculous question! It's just that having never been to a conference, I don't know what the standard is. I'm going to look for examples of conference papers now and hope I can find something. Thanks again!
I think its always a challenge to know where to pitch your papers and presentations, i.e. what level of knowledge to assume. It probably depends if this is a specialised v. a general conference. Brief explanations of key concepts are probably helpful in any event, just so that everyone is on the same page.
Usually the Call for papers indicates how long should papers be. In the Humanities you usually get a 20-minute slot, plus 5 or 10 minutes for questions. As for writing style, presentation tips etc. - I have attended a number of seminars/short courses organized by my university or by other organizations within my discipline which give advice about all this, of course you get to hear lots of different opinions as to whether it's better to read your paper or to say it, whether you should use PowerPoint or not... but everything helps. Plus of course observing other speakers "live". Why not present anything first at a seminar or small conference at your department? It's usually less intimidating, plus you sometimes do get useful feedback to modify your paper before presenting it at a major conference.
"I have got this down to a fine art, where if I have x number of minutes, I go that long, and no less and no more."
I'm impressed. I have always had problems with this actually. When I was teaching in secondary schools, I could never stick to my lesson plans in terms of timing. Now I have to help a student do a presentation lasting 10 minutes, if she stops 50 seconds under or goes 50 seconds beyond, she will lose marks! If you had any tips on the matter I could pass on to her Olivia, I'd be more than grateful...
I think that works for me in keeping strictly to time is knowing where I am in my presentation relative to my overall time as I go. That way, I know if I am on pace, comfortably ahead, or if I need to move along more quickly to finish appropriately and without leaving out or racing through critical pieces. I think that PP or overhead slides help with this, as you can calculate the rough minutes per slide, against the total. I try to mark the 5, 10 and 15 minute marks on slides of a 20 minute presentation, and can gauge yourself accordingly. I think this is harder to do if you read a paper...in fact I don't know how you would do it. By "ad-libbing" the presentation to some extent, rather than reading, you can adjust your timing as needed, in a way you cannot if you are reading.
"I try to mark the 5, 10 and 15 minute marks on slides of a 20 minute presentation, and can gauge yourself accordingly."
THAT actually sounds like an excellent idea, I will tell her to do this and also bear it in mind for whenever it could be useful to me again.
"I think this is harder to do if you read a paper...in fact I don't know how you would do it."
I totally agree. I did that myself for my first undergrad presentation in English (a matter of confidence I guess, I would never had done that in French) and found I had to rehearse it all like 20 times to make sure I stuck to the time allowed! What a waste of time...
Anyway, many thanks for your answer Olivia
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